Upon the Sunday following the first full moon after the Lencten even-night,[i] a housel is held throughout Christendom to recall their godling’s grave-rising. Whilst known by most of Christendom as Pascha, the Latin name for the Jewish Passover, throughout English speaking world the holiday is, instead, known as Easter. Taken from the Anglo-Saxon moon-month of Éastermónaþ, “Easter Month,” which fell nigh about the Roman month of April, Easter was a name well known in England long before Augustine brought the Christian gospel to its shores in 597 CE. As betold by Béda in his reckoning of the Anglo-Saxon months, De mensibus Anglorum (725 CE):
“Éastermónaþ, which is now name-wended “Paschal Month,” was named for the goddess Éostre to whom they once held fainings. By her name they now call the Paschaltide; the name that was thewful (customary) for their old rites being given to the gladness of their new worship.”[ii]
As aforesaid in On the Right Reckoning of Módraniht, the Anglo-Saxon church borrowed freely from a thew which once belonged to the old belief so as to ease troth-wending. To this end, Christ was bestowed with the names of Bealdor, Éarendel, Fréa, and Wuldor (ON: Baldr, Aurvandil, Freyr, and Ullr), gods whose reach touched upon the worship of the sun or sky. Moreover, Éaster is not alone in being a Heathen holytide rebranded as a Christian holiday. The Cristesmæsse (Christ Mass, Christmas) offered by Anglo-Saxon Christians at the winter sunstead to mark their godling’s birth was, for many hundretide, known by the heathen name of Géol (ON: Jól). Indeed in sundry carols it is still sometimes sung of as Yule.
As to the goddess Éastre, her name springs from the Proto-Germanic *Austrǭ, itself from the Proto-Indo-European *h₂éws¸ meaning both “dawn” and “east.” Her namelore is shared by other Indo-European dawn goddesses such as the Hindu Ushas, the Greek Eos, the Roman Aurora, and the Lithuanian Aušrinė. As such, we may well believe that the Anglo-Saxon Éastre is, as well, a goddess of the dawn. That the church would borrow the name of her holytide for that of their Passover speaks to the Anglican troth-melding begotten by Bishop Mellitus (see On the Right Reckoning of Módraniht). Where the risen Sun goddess was once fained, a housel was held for the grave-risen “Son of God.”
Yet as the holytide of Éaster is held but one month a year and the dawn arises every day, we might well wonder what holy rune her yeartidely faining betokened (what sacred mystery her seasonal celebration symbolized). Though it is but a learned guess, we might well think it to be the dawning of the summer-sun. On this, more will follow in a forthcoming blog entry.
Betoken – Symbolize
Betold – Described
Éaster – The holytide upon which the goddess Éastre was worshipped and which marked the beginning of summer.
Éastre – The Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn
Éastremónaþ – “Easter Month,” a lunar month in the Anglo-Saxon calendar roughly corresponding with April.
Fain – Celebrate
Faining – A Théodish-wrought word meaning “to celebrate” or “to worship.”
Housel – An old word for the Eucharist, itself sprung from the Old English húsel, “sacrificial feast
Hundedtide – Century
Godling – The offspring of a god, the “son of (a) god”
Grave-rising – Resurrection
Lencten even-night – Lenten even-night, Spring Equinox
Moon-month – Lunar month, from new moon to new moon
Name-lore – Etymology
Name-wended – Name translated
Rune – Mystery
Sunstead – Solstice
Thew – Custom, tradition
Thewful – Customary, traditional
Troth-melding – Religious syncretism
Troth-wending – Trust-turning, religious conversion
Yeartidely – Annual, seasonal
[i] This is the Christian way of reckoning their Easter Mass. The Heathen reckoning is far more straightforward, being the full moon of Éastremónaþ.
[ii] Eostur-monath, qui nunc paschalis mensis interpretetur, quondam a dea illorum quae Eostre vocabatur, et cui in illo festa celebrabant, nomen habuit, a cuius nomine nunc paschale tempus cognominant; consueto antiquae observationis vocabulo gaudia novae solemnitatis vocantes. Taken from De Temporum Ratione (725 CE), De mensibus Anglorum. Wended from Latin by Þórbeorht.